News

20.11.2016

Colombia Speaker Tour - Jani Silva & Father Alberto Franco - May 2016

With peace, it seems to me that the gods have illuminated Colombia

Pepe Mujica, ex-president of Uruguay

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Fr. Alberto Franco, Executive Secretary of the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission and Jani Silva, legal representative of the Amazon Integral Sustainable Development Association are Human Rights Defenders from Colombia, working with victims of the armed conflict and on territorial and land right, working with communities at risk of displacement.

Human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists, indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, and other community activists face death threats and violence.

PBI Ireland volunteer Sinead Nolan, and previously a field volunteer with PBI Mexico, wrote about their visit to Ireland in May:



After more than fifty long years of conflict, Colombia teeters beautifully on the brink of peace. On 23 June 2016 in Havana, the president Juan Manuel Santos and the leader of the FARC, known as Timochenko, signed accords which should bring an end to the violence and hopefully pave the path to peace. Thousands of miles away in Dublin, we were reminded of the words of Fr. Alberto Franco, who visited us along with Jani Silva, in May 2016 and who had told us that these accords are not yet peace accords, but accords which may bring peace, if they are afforded the proper implementation structures and address the root causes of the conflict, including land and territorial rights.

Fr. Alberto Franco is the legal representative and Executive Secretary of the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission. The CIJP provides integral accompaniment in to rural, indigenous, Afro-Colombian and mixed communities. Jani Silva is the legal representative of the Amazon Integral Sustainable Development Association whose work involves defending the human and environmental rights of communities affected by the operations of oil companies in Putumayo on the Ecuadorean border.

During PBI's visit to Belfast on 3 May, Jani and Fr. Alberto inspired and were inspired by members of the Irish Network for Nonviolent Action Training and Education (INNATE) at the offices of Mediation Northern Ireland. The peacebuilders exchanged views on both conflicts, including the crucial piece of the puzzle, implementation of peace agreements and maintenance of peace through difficult transitional periods, as well as the difficult issue of forgiveness. The HRDs continued the discussion at Queen's University, where they addressed the same concerns with a rapt audience of students from the Human Rights Centre. Jani emphasised her work in the defence of territory, and the challenge of facing down powerful multinational companies, including from the UK.

Back in Dublin on 4 May, Jani and Fr. Alberto met, in separate meetings, representatives from the DFAT, as well as the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Críona Ní Dhálaigh, and Eamonn Gilmore, the EU envoy to the peace process. They also gave a very informative talk that evening on the challenges of building peace in a country where the extractive industry is allowed to walk all over the rights of indigenous people and rural dwellers. One can only hope that through the actions of human rights defenders such as Fr. Alberto and Jani, peace will at last flourish and bring joy and hope to communities who have longed for it all these years.



Fr. Franco and Jani met the Irish Network for Nonviolent Action Training and Education (INNATE) at the offices of Mediation Northern Ireland, Belfast as part of PBI Ireland's Speaker's Tour series. You can listen to a talk with Jani here, with Fr. Franco here or you can find the full talk here.

 

PBI Ireland, Comhlámh, 12 Parliament Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland


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